Thailand ends emergency rule

August 16, 2010 12:00 am

, BANGKOK, Aug 16 – The Thai government said Monday it was lifting a state of emergency in three more provinces, but not Bangkok, almost three months after the end of deadly opposition protests in the capital.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva revoked the decree in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Ubon Ratchathani in north and northeast Thailand, said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

The strict laws, which ban public gatherings of more than five people and give security forces the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge, remain in place in seven out of Thailand\’s 76 provinces.

They were introduced in Bangkok on April 7 in response to mass anti-government protests by the "Red Shirt" movement that left at least 90 people dead and 1,900 injured, ending in a bloody army crackdown in May.

The government has come under pressure from the United States and rights groups to end emergency rule to help the country recover from the civil unrest, which has left it deeply divided.

After the May crackdown, Red Shirt leaders asked their thousands of supporters to disperse, but enraged protesters set fire to dozens of buildings, including a shopping mall and the stock exchange.

Authorities have used the emergency powers to arrest hundreds of Red Shirt suspects and silence anti-government media.

At one point about one-third of the country was under emergency rule.

Deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters earlier in the day that it was necessary to end the decree in the three provinces because it was having a negative impact on business and tourism.

The government has said the laws are still needed in the capital following two small bomb blasts in central Bangkok last month, including one that killed a man.

The Reds, many of whom support fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, view the current government as elitist and undemocratic because it came to power after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.



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